Which of these micro-stressors can you relate to:
- Missing lunch because you are so busy.
- Fielding the frustrations of an angry customer.
- Going to work on your day off.
- Back-to-back virtual meetings, giving you no time to regroup.
- Not knowing when you had your last physical or dental exam.
- Driving white-knuckled on your commute.
- Ditching friends and hobbies that bring you joy.
- Skipping your spiritual practices.
- Overcommitting (too much to do, too little time).
Psychology professionals use the term micro-stressors to capture the tiny moments of stress caused by routine actions, personally and professionally, that are so routine you barely notice them. Likely you said yes to many of the examples listed above which does not even include major life stressors like loss of a loved one, divorce, moving, pregnancy, illnesses, and finances. It’s easy to call out a major stressor and understand its impact. What’s also easy is to overlook the micro-stressors that seem manageable now but, as they accrue, have an enormous punch to your well-being.
There is an old fable that claims if you throw a frog into boiling water, it will immediately jump out. But if you place a frog into room temperature water and slowly heat it to boiling, the frog won’t notice and slowly cook to death. Using that analogy, are the micro-stressors in your life unknowingly boiling you?
First, the good news- is that you have incredible biological skills that allow you to face challenges as they arise. Your brain is constantly trying to budget the cumulative effect of stressors. Your body is designed to adapt internally (foreign bacteria and viruses) and externally (temperature and climate). However, the bad news- is that your biology is in survivor mode, which means it’s even more vital that you take the reins when it comes to the quality of your life. In other words, shift surviving to thriving.
Thriving means being aware of what’s happening, recognizing opportunities, and responding rather than reacting to life events. Your biology is reacting. Responding comes in the form of connecting to your passions, dreams, interests, humor, compassion for others, and the self-care you consciously give yourself. As you shift from reacting to purposefully responding, consider micro-stressors as something you can’t always avoid, but you can decide how you respond to them.
This Self-Care September, challenge yourself to practice more self-nurturing intentionally. This can encompass activities and practices that promote physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being. It involves deliberate actions to care for oneself, recharge, and maintain a healthy, happy life.
Need a place to start? Try these three self-care tips.
- The 3 Daily W’s:
- Drink more Water.
- Find a Window (literal and metaphorical) to change your perspective.
- Go for a Walk.
- Check Engine Light: Since we don’t have a low-battery icon or check-engine flashing on our body, it requires intentionality to give our body the needed tune-up it deserves. Schedule your annual physical, dental cleaning, therapy and vaccinations today.
- Open Up– Meaningful conversations help build trust and deepen intimacy in relationships. Try opening up with someone today. This requires courage and vulnerability. Someone is out there wanting to know you better.
With wellness in mind,
Clinical Wellness Director